Today’s town is built in exactly the same position as the ancient Rithymna or Rithymnia. The existence of the town is traced back in the 5th century B.C , mainly due to the silver and copper coins with the head of Apollo or Athena on the one side and a trident or two dolphins on the other side. No more testimonies are found until 1204, when Venetians buy Crete from Frank conquerors for 10.000 marks. They oust Yenouates while settling in the island, which in fact they neglect, paying more attention to their conquests in the mainland of Greece and the Ionian islands. In 1538,Khair ad Din, widely known as Barbarossa, admiral of the Ottoman fleet and pirate of the Algerian coasts, attacks the island. At the time, Venetians decide to protect their conquest. They build a wall around the town, 1.400 metres long, which is unfortunately totally destroyed in our days. However, they do not take care of the sea side which they leave entirely exposed. Hence, the pirate Oloutz Ali, easily conquers the town in 1562 and Venetians, after realizing their huge mistake, oust him and build a fortress, called Fortezza, which is nowadays the landmark of the town.

During the sixteenth century, the town relishes a spiritual growth. A great number of Rethymnian artists work, not only on Crete but also in Venice. Some of the most important personalities of the era are Markos Moussouros (1470 – 1517), Emmanuel Tzanes Bounialis and his brother Marios Tzanes Bounialis, creator of the epic under the title “ Creatan War”, Nikolaos Vlastos, Zaharias Kalergis, who wrote and edited the Great Semantics Dictionary, the painter Emmanuel Lamverdos, George Hortatsis and many more….


However, the stoppage of this growth is quite abrupt. In 1669, Crete is conquered by the Turkish, who make its city and its life fall into decline. Its people gradually abandon the area although some trivial rebellions take place as well. Crete actually revolts during the revolution of 1821 in the mainland, though the Turkish find no difficulty in supressing this rebellion, since Cretan people fight alone and helpless. A characteristic incident takes place in the cave of Melidoni where 370 people take shelter trying not to surrender themselves. The Turkish throw burning materials at the entrance of the cave resulting in the suffocation of everybody who was in there.

In 1866 a new revolution breaks out. Once more, Cretan people are totally helpless and the whole movement is again strifled. A characteristic incident of this era is the holocaust Of Arkadi, a monastery, 22 klm on the east of Rethymno.

Due to the independence of Crete in 1897, the city starts to develop again and many infrastructure works are done, such as streets and bridges. The development is continued but not in high speed, until its interruption at the War of Crete during the Second World War, when the city undergoes a lot of disasters. However, a great part of the old town is saved, which remains one of the most well saved Venetian towns in Greece.


After its liberation, the city developed on a settlement as well as on a spiritual level. The deployment of the School of Philosophy ,the School of National and Political Studies of the University of Crete and the creation of the University Library consisted a great push. Today, Rethymno is the 3rd in size city on Crete, with about 33.000 inhabitants. It bases its economy on tourism, having a lot of sights, a huge sandy beach and remarkable hotel facilities. The city is connected to Heraklion and Chania via the motorway E75 and a quite good road network which can lead to all places of the Prefecture. In addition, it has got a new modern port. It hasn’t got an airport.

Source: P. Drandaki Great Greek Encyclopedia

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